Teen Birth Rate Down

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The state's birth rate among teenagers has dropped to at least a 21-year low, a trend that experts say reflects less sex and more contraceptives.

Health experts say the declines also suggest that young people are responding to influences such as fear of sexually transmitted diseases and economic anxieties about becoming a parent when money is tight and jobs are scarce.

Preliminary data show that the state's teen birth rate declined for the third straight year, while the national teen birth rate dropped to an all-time low, the newspaper reported.

"I think we are staring square in the face of one of the nation's real great success stories of the past few decades," said Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "A combination of less sex and more contraception is driving the teen birth rate down."

The Ohio Department of Health reports that the state last year had 34 births among every 1,000 girls between ages 15 and 19, compared with 38.8 births in 2009 and 41 births in 2008. Last year's rate was the lowest since 1990.

The national teen birth rate in 2010 showed a one-year decrease of 9 percent, the steepest decline recorded, according to preliminary data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The birth rate for girls younger than 20 was 34.3 per 1,000 last year.

Teens are recognizing that they should delay having sex or at least practice safe sex, and while young people are more likely to take risks, the fear of contracting sexually transmitted diseases is a major concern, he said.

The struggling economy also can have a "sobering effect," making some teens think that it's not the time to risk getting pregnant, Albert said. He says popular television shows such as MTV's "Teen Mom" have helped underline the hardships of being a teenage parent.

"Having a baby as a teenager interferes a lot with the teenager completing their education and developing their own sense of who they are in this world," said Sarah Highstein, pediatric psychologist with the Children's Medical Center of Dayton.

Research shows that teen mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and attend college and typically earn less. About half of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by age 22, compared with 90 percent of women who did not give birth in adolescence, according to CDC data.